Robert Riley Saunders. (File)

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)

Disgraced Kelowna social worker faces another class-action lawsuit

Zackary Alphonse claims he was not informed of resources available to him upon leaving government care

A former Kelowna social worker facing several criminal charges for stealing from foster children is facing another class-action lawsuit.

The claim, filed in B.C. Supreme Court last week, alleges Robert Riley Saunders failed to inform Zackary Alphonse, an Indigenous person who was placed in provincial custody as a child, of resources available to him upon his leaving the system. As a result, Alphonse says Saunders and the Ministry of Children and Family Development, as well as another unnamed social worker, are responsible for Alphonse’s depression and eventual one-month of homelessness after leaving care.

Alphonse claims he was not notified of the Young Adults Program, meant to ease the transition from the care system to adult life, until almost a decade after ageing out of care. The ministry sent him a letter in June 2020 stating he may qualify for certain services, but after a phone call with a ministry representative, he was told he was too old.

When he left the system at 19-years-old, Alphonse “had only completed to Grade 9 of his secondary schooling, and without financial support, he could not afford to work on his graduate equivalency degree,” reads the civil claim. “For a period of approximately one year, (Alphonse) could see no future for himself, felt hopeless and became depressed and unable to advance his interests.”

READ MORE: Former Kelowna social worker arrested for allegedly stealing from foster children

READ MORE: Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Alphonse managed to stabilize his working life over the next eight years, eventually returning to school for an online high school equivalency and a computer repair certification. Now at age 29, he has nearly completed his GED, but the suit claims he would’ve been able to begin his adult education much sooner if he had been informed of the program.

The claim also states the ministry’s failure to inform Alphonse of the program “has a discriminatory effect on Indigenous persons who have aged out of care, which manifests in lower rates of program uptake for Indigenous persons and lower levels of educational attainment for Indigenous persons.”

Alphonse is seeking reparations for several damages including the future cost of his education.

None of the claims made in the suit have been tested in court.

If approved by the courts as a class-action lawsuit, all who were in the ministry’s care and not informed of the program could be eligible for compensation.

Saunders is currently out on bail while facing 13 criminal charges alleging he defrauded and stole from children in his care; however, a previously settled class-action lawsuit — which also named him and the ministry — awarded funds to more than 100 people who were in Saunders’ care, many of whom were Indigenous. Up to $15 million could be handed out as part of that settlement.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com


@michaelrdrguez
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Foster care

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police in Nanaimo are turning to the public for help identifying two men suspected of a break-and-enter attempt at a Nicol Street apartment building. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo RCMP looking for two men suspected of a break-and-enter attempt

Security camera snapped images in Nicol Street apartment building parking lot

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 case reported at Nanaimo’s Mountain View school

School district advises of March 2-3 exposure dates

An Island Health nurse prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy Island Health)
Island Health opening 19 clinics to immunize Vancouver Island residents

Health authority anticipates more than 40,000 people will be immunized over the next month

(News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo school district headed toward 26-per cent overcapacity in next 10 years

Using B.C. Assessment and municipal stats, consultant projects more than 18,300 students in 2030

A Nanaimo man is offering a $300 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person who broke into his SUV and stole components from his drone. (News Bulletin file photo)
Drone owner offering reward after components stolen from his vehicle in Nanaimo

Vehicle break-in happened last month on Departure Bay Road

A sports car crashed into a lamp standard and rolled down the hill behind Country Club Centre mall on Sunday night. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Sports car crashes into lamp post, rolls down hill behind Nanaimo mall

Driver uninjured in incident Sunday night on Norwell Drive

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

(Black Press Media files)
Medicine gardens help Victoria’s Indigenous kids in care stay culturally connected

Traditional plants brought to the homes of Indigenous kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Most Read